At Flourishing Mothers, we were very honoured to be part of the panel event discussing recent research into new mums and celebrating the role of midwives leading up to International Midwives Day on 5th May 2017.
Our role in this discussion was to help mums understand the psychological changes we experience with having a baby.
Becoming a mother is hugely exciting, but possibly the life event causing the greatest amount of change in our lives. We become mothers overnight, but the psychological and emotional process of accepting and embracing this change takes much longer.
No matter how longed for the baby is, most mums experience periods of stress, anxiousness or lack of confidence as there is so much to deal with in these early weeks. We are getting used to our new identity as a mum and learning how to function in our new world with our babies.
We may find our relationship with our partners’ changes as our families grow from 2 to 3, or more. And we do all this while our hormones are wreaking havoc, we are likely sleep deprived, are physically recovering from the birth and on a steep learning curve with new essential skills such as breastfeeding, bathing, wrapping our babies etc. Lacking confidence at times is completely normal!
Here are some tips for you to grow your confidence as a mum in the first few weeks or months of your baby’s life, and help you adapt to the process of change you are experiencing.
Look After Your Physical Self
We function much better psychologically when our energy levels are higher – less likely to feel emotionally overwhelmed and are more resilient. Try to prioritise sleep as much as you can.
Research shows that even 10-20-minute power naps (say when your baby is sleeping) have a positive effect on alertness, memory and overall functioning. Get some fresh air every day – head out with the pram or baby carrier.
This is not a time for overachievement! Set realistic expectations of what you can accomplish in a day, compared to pre-baby. Your best laid plans can change and your day can go pear-shaped. Try to roll with it rather than getting frustrated.
Think about things in your routine or your day that are working for you and do more of them. Seek to change what’s not working. Accept there are many things you cannot control with a baby! Ask for help – your support networks are vital whether it be your partner, your midwife, your mum or the many external services out there.
Don’t Play the Blame Game
If and when things go wrong, it’s not useful or helpful and to blame yourself, or ruminate that this problem will always exist or maybe even generalise to conclude that everything in your life is awful!
Find a more realistic explanation of bad events – what’s happened is just the situation and not you. It won’t last forever and you can notice that even if this one thing isn’t great – there are other things that are going well.
Studies have shown this “optimistic” style of thinking has benefits in more positive mood, happiness and even your physical health.
Be Kind to Yourself
If your best friend just had a baby would you tell her daily or even hourly she’s inadequate as a mum? Or, would you encourage her, tell her she’s doing fine, tell her not to give herself a hard time, tell her that everything will work out. The latter of course!
The compassion, encouragement and love we give to others we need to give to ourselves. Be your own best friend. When you’re unsure, think about what your best friend would say to you. In scientific studies, self compassion and non-self-judgement are linked to lower levels of anxiety and depression, and have a positive effect on happiness and wellbeing.
We encourage you to put these tips into use. Feeling more confident as a mum will help you cope better with the challenges that motherhood presents, manage feelings of overwhelm and help you enjoy this special time much more.
Do you think that it is important for new mums to remember to have confidence in themselves? What advice would you give to another mum who is feeling a little insecure about her new role? Please join the conversation!
Flourishing Mothers helps women thrive and live their best life by building resilience, boosting wellbeing and guiding positive action. Their mission is to help women adapt to and enjoy Motherhood, and raise their children while still living a life consistent with their own goals and values. Debra and Kate both hold the Masters of Coaching Psychology from the University of Sydney and are members of the International Society of Coaching Psychology and the International Positive Psychology Association. In their practice, they offer Coaching and practical tools based on evidence from Positive Psychology science.